I had a friend who once encouraged me to always write about my feelings. As a writer, putting your emotions and feelings on a page is not always so easy though it can be a very rewarding and healing experience. Sometimes putting those words and emotions on a page can be not only hard but requires a certain amount of effort and honesty to pour out what really burns and screams to come out from the inside.

The topic that I feel strongly about this holiday season is family. Having a family, being around them is the most important thing in life, for me. Being an immigrant who came to the US many, many years ago, I still feel as an outsider and not because I don’t fit in, but because I feel alone. My family has been spread like seeds throughout the world from Bulgaria to Russia to Chicago.

Even though my cousins and uncles and aunts in Bulgaria live a pretty basic, simple life and much less “luxurious” than mine, they have something I don’t – each other. Seeing their happy faces, the new born baby and feeling the warmth of the love they have for one another brings tears to my eyes because it’s real.

This past Thanksgiving week was hard for me as I was left to experience a cold, lonely week in Chicago alone with my daughter. As my mother left back to Bulgaria for the week, I felt what it is like to be alone here and rely only on yourself and let me tell you – it hurts. Not because I am not independent, quite the opposite – I have been independent since I immigrated to the US at 15 years old, but because I was all alone. If I wanted to share the good or the bad, the hard and the easy, buy food, eat food, cook food, it was just me and my daughter. No one else to share it with and everyone else around me seemed happy, together and warm. 

Seeing my distant family, mother and father at home celebrating happily made me feel alone and cold. Looking around and seeing happy families, lovers holding hands and so much joy made me realize how much I am missing and how much more I want and what I want doesn’t come easily for me here in Chicago – finding the real love that warms the heart and the soul.

This holiday season I pray for a family of my own, the warmth and love that comes with such. If you have a close family, a significant other and friends that you know you can rely on you have succeeded in my books. It is not about how much money you can make, how much stuff you can buy, the people you get to impress, the fame you so much crave, it is about family – the people that bring sense in all of that and give you joy and love when you need it most.

I am thankful this season for my daughter who brings so much joy into my life, for my mother who has always been there to help me and even my brother who now has a family of his own. In my 30s I ask Santa not for gifts, not for money, but for a family of my own that I can share my love, joy and life with because carrying the burden of being alone is not what we as people were meant to carry.

Happy Holidays to all and please don’t take your families for granted – they are all you have at the end; Instead of gifts, give them the love you have for them as it is the most precious and rare gifts of all!